Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Snippets of Wealth - Tuesday 20th August 2019 - Dalton Crags/Painted Lady butterfly

Vanessa cardui PAINTED LADY (click over to enlarge)
Photo: June 2016 - Dalton Crags

It was so peaceful heading over Dalton Crags today, and much enhanced by the visitations from the beautiful Vanessa, or perhaps she is better known as THE PAINTED LADY butterfly. 

The Painted Lady holds so dear to my memories.  It was some twenty years ago and we were on holiday on the beautiful island of Menorca.  It was May 8th and yes I can be so precise with the date because it was "our lass's" birthday and we were having breakfast around the pool with our friend and I had placed her birthday cards all stood up in regimental salute, but the breeze kept blowing the cards down. 

 But what was far more striking was to my right I kept seeing flashes go past at regular intervals and on closer inspection sure enough they were Painted Lady butterflies, before long I was seeing parties of 20 at a time coming through every few minutes.  It took me time to try and work out just what was going on, as they breezed past me fluttering away, some of them were quite low and would hit the villa walls with force, which made them cascade for a yard or so before gracefully composing themselves to elevate past their obstacle and continue with their flightpath North. The movement went on for just over two days and I guess I must have witnessed hundreds of thousands or more. There would have been millions of these little pearls involved in this mass migration from the Atlas Mountains in Morrocco through Spain (then passing us on the Island) before ending their journey in France with many even reaching the UK.

Over those couple of days I saw hundreds dead in the roads which had fallen victim to the cars. I spent a few hours down on the coastline to witness them coming off the sea, it was a fantastic spectacle and something I cannot ever expect to see again. Its true when they say "being in the right place at the right time"

That same year when back in the UK, in early June I decided to specifically search for Painted Ladies and sure enough found them! and obviously because of the dates they must have been specimens from that same migration we had seen earlier......

We locally can get Painted Lady migrations has well.  I remember back about 10 years ago when my dear late friend Charlie rang me to say "get yourself over here now" and so I dashed over to the Beetham Caravan Park (nr Milnthorpe) where he was based and we witnessed Painted Ladies going past at about one per minute and all were coming through at roughly the same height of about 30-40ft and heading from a South East to North West direction. Obviously a very weakened down version of the Menorca event, but even so it showed this beautiful migration in progress. 

These Painted Lady migrations seem to take place perhaps every 7 to 10 years or less and I am now sure that this year is one of those years, when the conditions must just be right and you see numerous of them like we have been seeing in recent months.  I guess that these later sightings maybe a second generation which have arrived from France or even born in the UK. 

If you do want to read more about the fantastic migration of these beauties then can I recommend you to read this piece I have obtained from the BIRDGUIDES...


One of the longest-standing mysteries of migration has finally been solved after scientists discovered where the UK's Painted Lady
 butterfly population goes each autumn. The butterfly, a common immigrant, migrates from the continent each summer to UK shores in varying numbers. But until now scientists did not know whether the Painted Lady made the return journey at the end of the summer, like the closely related Red Admiral, or simply died in the UK.
In one of the largest citizen science projects ever conducted, scientists from Butterfly Conservation, the NERC Centre for Ecology; Hydrology and Rothamsted Research, among others, have discovered exactly what happens to Painted Ladies each autumn. More than 60,000 public sightings of the butterfly during 2009 were collected across Europe, including radar images tracking butterfly movements across southern England, with 10,000 British observers taking part. Scientists discovered that the Painted Lady did indeed migrate south each autumn, but made this return journey at high altitude out of view of butterfly observers on the ground.
Radar records revealed that Painted Ladies fly at an average altitude of over 500 metres on their southbound trip and can clock up speeds of 30 mph by selecting favourable conditions. The findings also revealed that the species undertakes a phenomenal 9,000-mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle — almost double the length of the famous migrations undertaken by Monarch butterflies in North America. The whole journey is not undertaken by individual butterflies, but is a series of steps by up to six successive generations; so Painted Ladies returning to Africa in the autumn are several generations removed from their ancestors who left Africa earlier in the year. Richard Fox, Surveys Manager at Butterfly Conservation, was one of the report authors. He said: "The extent of the annual journey undertaken by the Painted Lady butterfly is astonishing. This tiny creature, weighing less than a gram, with a brain the size of a pinhead and no opportunity to learn from older, experienced individuals, undertakes an epic intercontinental migration in order to find plants for its caterpillars to eat. Once thought to be blindly led, at the mercy of the wind, into an evolutionary dead end in the lethal British winter, this amazing combination of mass-participation citizen science and cutting-edge technology has shown Painted Ladies to be sophisticated travellers. We are extremely grateful to the many thousands of members of the public who reported Painted Lady sightings and contributed to this extraordinary discovery."
Radar in Hampshire operated by Rothamsted Research revealed that around 11 million high-flying Painted Ladies entered the UK in spring 2009 with 26 million departing in autumn. Dr Jason Chapman, a researcher at Rothamsted Research, who led the radar studies of Painted Ladies, said: The apparent lack of a return migration of the late-summer generation of Painted Lady butterflies was one of the greatest enigmas in insect migration ecology. But, through a combination of traditional monitoring by butterfly enthusiasts and new radar techniques, we have finally solved this long-standing puzzle. Migrant insects continue to amaze the public and research community alike as they are capable of carrying out the most remarkable journeys."

For results of the 2019 butterfly survey which includes
the best year for Painted Ladies for the last ten years click over this link: